La Liga Fixtures

ESPN commentator Tommy Smyth often refers to Spain’s La Liga as “Scotland with the sunshine”, referencing the two-team dominance of Celtic and Rangers in the Scottish Premiership.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have been forces of nature in both Spain and Europe for decades. Founded in the late 1920’s, Spain’s top division has been dominated by the El Clasico clubs. The two sides have shared 56 league titles between them.

However, the last few seasons have seen an incredible resurgence from Real’s city cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid. The club has won 10 league titles of their own and has shown a penchant for causing both Real and Barca headaches whenever they meet on the pitch.

We take a look at what these three squads bring to the table this season for the title race.

BARCELONA  Barcelona

Barca come into the 2016-17 campaign as league champions and Copa Del Rey title holders, but there was certainly a feeling of negativity as they hobbled over the finish line.

Antoine Griezmann’s pace and scoring touch knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League and a poor run of form late in the season almost cost the Catalan side the league. Extra time was also required to defeat Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey final to add to the drama.

All in all, a successful year for Barcelona that manager Luis Enrique will want to continue this season, perhaps without as much difficulty.

Operating in a 4-3-3 formation, Barca arguably boast the best attack in the world with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Quality in the midfield and the addition of defensive reinforcements sets them up nicely for another run at multiple trophies.

REAL MADRID  Real Madrid

The Galacticos had a difficult start to this last season, with Rafa Benitez being sacked this past January and being replaced by French legend Zinedine Zidane.

However, the Frenchman did magnificently and was able to inspire and rally his squad, resulting in Real fighting back into league contention and capturing an amazing 11th European crown.

Los Blancos also utilise a 4-3-3 formation with players like Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marcelo showcasing their abilities in effective ways. The squad has looked in good form during their preseason tour in the United States this summer and will be looking for a strong start to 2016-17.

However, the health of Cristiano Ronaldo will have a significant impact moving forward. After picking up a knee injury in the Euro 2016 final with Portugal, CR7’s availability for Real will of course be of vital importance.

ATLETICO MADRIDAtletico Madrid

Last season was a bitter pill to swallow for Los Rojiblancos. A Champions League final defeat on penalty kicks and a third-place finish in the league by only three points left supporters dreaming of what could have been.

Manager Diego Simeone has transformed this club into a legitimate contender during his time in charge.

An organised and disciplined defence compliments players like Antoine Griezmann in the attack. Despite reports of former forward Diego Costa’s return turning out to be nothing but rumours, Atletico Madrid will again be a strong contender in La Liga and the Champions League.

PREDICTION

The race for a Spanish league title will eventually come down to the last week of the season, just as it did in 2015-16. All three of the teams highlighted will have their chance at glory.

Barcelona’s failure in the Champions League last campaign will shift focus on that competition as the upcoming season plays out.

We could see Real Madrid get back on top of La Liga by a slim margin in 2016-17 as a result.

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